Berkeley, John, third Baron Berkeley of Stratton 1663-1697, admiral, second son of John, first Lord Berkeley of Stratton, succeeded to the title by the death of his elder brother Charles, a captain in the navy, 6 March 1681-2. He was appointed first lieutenant of the Bristol on 14 April 1685, and on 9 July 1686 he was promoted to the command of the Charles galley. In this he sailed for the Mediterranean, where he remained till May 1688. On 30 Aug. 1688 he was appointed to the Mountagu; immediately after the revolution he was (27 Nov.) transferred to the Edgar; and on 14 Dec. was nominated rear-admiral of the fleet, under the command of Lord Dartmouth. In the following summer he was vice-admiral of the red squadron under Admiral Herbert, and with him in the action off Bantry Bay, 1 May 1689; in October he was detached with a small squadron to cruise in the entrance of the Channel, from which service he returned to Spithead in January. On 8 Feb. 1692-3, he was appointed vice-admiral of the blue, shortly afterwards vice-admiral of the red, and on the death of Sir John Ashby, 12 July 1693, admiral of the Blue in the fleet under the joint admirals Killigrew, Delavall, and Shovell. The following summer, 1694, Lord Berkeley was detached by Admiral Russell in command of a large division intended to cover the attack on Brest by the land forces under General Talmash. Several concurring accounts had warned the French of the object of this expedition, and when the attempt was made in Camaret Bay on 8 June, it was repulsed with very severe loss. After his return from this expedition, Berkeley had a correspondence with the secretary of state, to whom he complained of the admiralty for interfering with what he claimed as his right to appoint officers in the fleet. If I have not, he wrote 21 June 1694, the power of appointing officers, I can keep the fleet in no order, nor will I pretend to it. Since this war the admiralty have never, in the summer-time, appointed officers in the line-of-battle ships, and I should be sorry to be the first not thought a judge of officers. Such a claim could scarcely be allowed, but it would appear that some compromise was effected, for Berkeley continued in command of the fleet, and, a few days later, was again sent out to bombard Dieppe and Havre, both which services he accomplished, 13 and 16 July 1694, probably inflicting a good deal of injury on the enemy (Evelyn's Diary, 13 July 1694); but it was doubted whether the damage to the French was commensurate with the expense to the English. On 27 Aug. Lord Berkeley resigned the command to Sir Clowdisley Shovell, and went to London for the winter.
The next summer, 1695, it was determined to renew these desultory attacks on the French coast, and on 12 June Berkeley hoisted his flag on board the Shrewsbury at Portsmouth. A few days later he was joined by a Dutch squadron under Admiral Van Almonde, and, the combined fleet appearing in front of St. Malo on 4 July, the place was shelled during that afternoon and the whole of the next day by a flotilla of bomb-vessels under the immediate command of Captain Benbow [see Benbow, John, vice-admiral]; after which the admirals resolved that nothing more could be done, and the main fleet returned to the Downs.
Berkeley's jealous temper and domineering disposition are strongly shown by a letter of this date, 23 July 1695, in which he wrote: Since it has been thought fit to appoint Sir George Rooke to command in the Straits [sc. the Mediterranean], I suppose care will be taken that he and I may not meet at sea without he will obey, for I can own no superior at sea but Admiral Russell. As Rooke and Shovell—who on this last expedition had acted under him—were both his seniors (by special regulation 20 July 1693), the pretension is not a little curious.
It was now determined to repeat an attempt on Dunkirk, which Shovell had unsuccessfully made in the previous September (Add. MS. 21494, f. 39). This was done on 1 Aug. by a flotilla of bomb-vessels, fire-ships, and a number of so-called machines, under the immediate command of their inventor, William Meester. No success could even be claimed, and the flotilla, with the fleet, moved along the coast to Calais. Here a quarrel broke out between the admiral and Meester, who appears to have been at least as much of a charlatan as of an inventor. Collecting his boats, and under cover of the darkness, Meester slipped away from the fleet. Berkeley sent after him, with orders to bring him back a close prisoner. He is afraid, he wrote 4 Aug., to stand the trial of his machines, and now his business is done, with what money he has got, he is for packing off, but I hope to stop him. All his actions and words have been every day nothing but contrariety, and his design only to cheat his Majesty and the nation.
The fleet returned to the Downs, from whence Berkeley wrote a very detailed statement of the case against Meester, who ought, he insisted, to be tried for his life. No such action appears to have been taken; but orders were sent down for the fleet to attempt Calais. Accordingly, they bombarded it on 17 Aug. as long as their mortars held out, though little real damage was done. The fleet returned to England, and was ordered to Spithead; but Berkeley, having received an intimation that Sir George Rooke would be at Portsmouth, left the command to Sir Clowdisley Shovell. The following year his objection to serve under Rooke had been overcome; and through May 1696 he commanded in the second post in the Channel. At the end of the month Rooke, then one of the lords of the admiralty, was summoned to London, and the command-in-chief remained with Berkeley, who at this time was permitted to fly the union flag at the main, and was presently ordered to extend his cruise into the Bay of Biscay, and to threaten the coast of France, in the hope of causing troops to be withdrawn from the French army in Flanders. Contrary winds, however, detained the fleet in the Channel till the end of June. In the early days of July the isle Groix and the smaller islands, Houet and Hoedic, were ravaged, and St. Martin's, in the isle of Ré, was bombarded. Such achievements could not lead to any result, and the most noticeable incident of the cruise was the intrusion into the fleet one night of a French privateer, commanded by Duguay-Trouin, who describes himself as having engaged and overpowered one of the frigates in full view of the English admiral (Mémoires de M. Du Guay-Trouin, Amsterdam, 1748, 41-3; Fraser's Magazine, 1882, i. 509 (April), where the incident is discussed in some detail). By the end of July the fleet returned to Spithead, and no further operations during that summer being intended, Berkeley went on leave, still preserving the command. He, however, never resumed it, being attacked by a pleurisy, of which he died 27 Feb. 1696-7. He had married Jane, daughter of Sir John Temple of East Sheen in Surrey, by whom he had but one daughter, who died in infancy.
Home Office Records (Admiralty), v. and ix., in the Public Record Office
Burchett's Naval History
Charnock's Biog. Nav. ii. 121
the memoir in continuation to Campbell's Lives of the Admirals (vol. vi.) has absolutely no value.
Contributor: J. K. L. [John Knox Laughton]